Hurry up with the Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act! Japan’s Strategy Toward China No Longer Needs Preconceived Ideas

Hurry up with the Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act! Japan’s Strategy Toward China No Longer Needs Preconceived Ideas

Mito Kakizawa (Member of the House of Representatives)

 China’s recently enacted domestic law, the China Maritime Police Law, gives the Chinese Maritime Police Bureau the authority to inspect and restrict the navigation of vessels of other countries whose territorial waters, EEZs, and even continental shelves are under its “jurisdiction,” even though it is not authorized by international law to do so. The law also gives the Chinese Maritime Police Bureau the power to inspect and restrict the navigation of ships of other countries that are allowed to sail in its “jurisdictional waters.

 Moreover, the law states that China can take any action, including the use of weapons, when “national sovereignty, sovereign rights, or jurisdiction” are “unlawfully violated or there is an imminent danger of unlawful violation” in “waters under its jurisdiction.

 This is barbaric domestic legislation in violation of international law, ignoring the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China itself is a ratifying party to, and must be judged as insane legislation that deviates from the norms of the international community.

 And what the Chinese Maritime Police Law seems to have in mind is the aim of making the entire sea area inside the so-called “first island chain” China’s “jurisdictional sea area” and bringing it under the control of the Chinese Maritime Police Bureau and the Chinese Navy.

 The first island chain is a line on the map that China has drawn on its own to serve as a target for the deployment of its naval and air forces, and has been established as a line of defense against the United States. It stretches from Kyushu and Okinawa in the Japanese archipelago to Taiwan and the Philippines.

 If China were to go to war with the U.S., it would use the first island chain, which includes the Japanese archipelago, as its front line to clash head-on with U.S. forces.

 In order to do so, it would probably want to seize the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea inside the first island chain as China’s internal seas, so to speak, from Japan and other countries and hold them in its hands. This is an outrageous idea, and China’s schemes like this must be stopped at all costs.

 This is where Taiwan becomes important. This is because Taiwan is an extension of the first island chain extending from the Japanese archipelago. China considers Taiwan to be a part of its own country and has not abandoned the option of unification by force, and even recently it has frequently threatened the Tsai administration, which has resolutely rejected the “one country, two systems” approach taken by Hong Kong, with force.

 This July marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), making it a milestone year for the party. President Xi Jinping is also said to be steadily laying the groundwork domestically to maintain his position of supreme power after the party congress next autumn, when his second term of office expires, and to continue his long-term administration.

 For this reason, there are many observers who are wary of the possibility that he will try his hand at the Senkaku Islands or Taiwan as an epoch-making feat.

 Just the other day, on the 9th of this month, Commander Davidson of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that he believes that China will try to annex Taiwan within the next 10 years, or even within the next 6 years, expressing his alarm at the imminent possibility of China’s invasion of Taiwan.

 Also this month, on the occasion of the first visit to Japan by U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin, the U.S. State Department issued a statement by its spokesperson, making a strong commitment to the Senkaku Islands, saying, “The United States will continue to oppose any unilateral change in the status quo in the East China Sea or any attempt to undermine Japan’s sovereignty over those islands. The United States will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo in the East China Sea or attempts to undermine Japan’s sovereignty over those islands.

 In this way, it is no exaggeration to say that Taiwan and Japan are a “community of fate” exposed to a common geopolitical threat.

 In the first place, the Peripheral Situation Act of 1999 (currently known as the Critical Influence Situation Act), which stipulates cooperation with U.S. forces in the event of an emergency, was supposed to have been enacted in anticipation of a Taiwanese emergency, following the outbreak of the “Taiwan Strait Crisis” during the Clinton administration in 1996.

 Therefore, if a Taiwan emergency were to occur, Japan and the United States would undoubtedly cooperate with each other to deal with the situation. But even before that, a Taiwanese emergency would have a fatal impact on Japan’s sea lanes and threaten the defense of the islands of the Southwest Islands, including Okinawa, making it not just a “peripheral situation” but a “Japan emergency” itself.

An F-16 fighter jet from the U.S. Misawa Air Base, Japan, participates in a training exercise at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Chitose Air Base in April 2018.

 Of course, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen has not neglected to prepare for contingencies. It has signed a series of major contracts to purchase 66 modern F-16 fighter jets, 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks, and surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles from the United States.

 The total amount of contracts for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment has reached $17.4 billion, which is larger than Taiwan’s annual defense budget. This is a major change from the Obama administration, which was reluctant to sell arms to Taiwan out of consideration for China. However, this has provoked a backlash from China, which has led to a number of threatening actions, as mentioned above.

 But what about Japan’s response? There is no way to say that Japan “values” Taiwan as a counterpart with common security interests.

 If China were to embark on a military adventure against Taiwan, Japan would have to work with the United States to stop it. Based on the aforementioned “Law Concerning Significantly Affected Situations” (formerly known as the Peripheral Situations Law), Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would be required to take joint measures such as providing logistical support to the military actions of the U.S., which is an ally of Japan. It is only natural that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would take action since the situation could directly lead to an “existential crisis” for Japan itself.

 However, what kind of communication do Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and Taiwan’s military really have in peacetime? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as close cooperation and information exchange in preparation for the “crisis that is now there.

 Japan and Taiwan do not have a military-to-military (mm-to-mil) cooperative relationship. Despite such close geographical proximity and common security interests, the two countries do not conduct (at least officially) joint training or exchange intelligence levels such as intelligence reconnaissance satellites and radar information.

 Why is this the case? The reason is that Taiwan is not a country. There are no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which is not a country, and Japan, which supports the “one China” principle, cannot consider Taiwan’s military as its own and engage in official dialogue with it.

 However, the U.S., which also adheres to the “One China” principle, has been cooperating with Taiwan’s military. The sale of a number of state-of-the-art weapons demonstrates the U.S. intention to do so, as does the provision of training to fighter pilots and joint training between the two sides to deal with cyber attacks. Where do these differences between the US and Japan come from?

 The U.S. has the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs military cooperation with and defense of Taiwan, and the arms transfers and training mentioned above are authorized under the Act.

 Article 2 of the Act states, “The United States declares that peace and stability in the region (Taiwan) are consistent with the political, security, and economic interests of the United States and are also matters of international concern,” and serves as the legal basis for continuing diplomatic and security cooperation even after diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) are severed.

 The U.S. perceptions expressed in the above-mentioned Article 2 of the “Taiwan Relations Act” are almost identical to the perceptions that we in Japan have of Taiwan. However, when I questioned Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is widely regarded as one of the most pro-Taiwan lawmakers in the Diet, at a meeting of the House of Representatives Security Committee, he responded as follows.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi speaks at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives in the First Committee Room of the House of Representatives on February 5, 2009.

 Taiwan is an extremely important partner for Japan, sharing fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law, as well as having close personal and economic relations. We also share fundamental values such as fundamental human rights and the rule of law.

 Unlike the U.S. “Taiwan Relations Act,” however, the word “security,” which should be a matter of life and death for both Japan and Taiwan, is left out. However, unlike the U.S. “Taiwan Relations Act,” the word “security,” which should be a matter of vital importance to both Japan and Taiwan, is left out. The defense minister has avoided explicitly stating that the two countries “have common interests in security.

In response to my question about the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces recognizing Taiwan as a “state of material influence” and taking action to deal with it, Defense Minister Kishi responded as follows.

 In response to my question about the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces taking action to deal with a Taiwanese incident, Defense Minister Kishi responded as follows: “You asked whether a Taiwanese incident would constitute a state of material influence. It is difficult to give a general answer, but I can tell you the factors that determine whether a situation of material influence is a situation where an armed conflict has actually occurred or is imminent. In the event that an armed conflict has actually occurred or is imminent, it is difficult to make a general statement. We believe that the decision will be made objectively and rationally, taking into account factors such as the content of activities conducted by U.S. and other foreign forces that contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Security Treaty, the possibility of war damage to Japan, and the importance of damage and other effects on the people.

 This is a crisp answer that says Japan is ready to act together with the U.S. in the event that China makes a move on Taiwan, although it is not saying that it is not. I don’t think there is any way that this would not be a “situation of significant influence,” but the current stance of the Japanese government is that even this cannot be clearly stated, perhaps out of consideration that it would irritate China.

 It is not too late. I believe that Japan should enact a Japanese version of the “Taiwan Relations Act” so that diplomatic and security cooperation with Taiwan can be made official.

 It does not have to go all the way to the provision of defense equipment and joint training. Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Wu, said in an interview, “First, let’s have a security dialogue on how to deal with cyber attacks in the non-military sphere. He is taking Japan’s position into consideration.

 Nevertheless, the Japanese side has not responded positively to this call. It may be that Japan is concerned about China’s reaction, but isn’t it too much of a cowardly move to reject Taiwan’s request for a “non-military zone”?

 If a Taiwanese emergency were to occur without the exchange of intelligence information, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would not be able to cooperate effectively with Taiwan’s military, and as a result, Japan’s national interests might not be protected and might even be damaged. Despite the fact that the two countries are pro-Japanese and share common interests in a “community of common destiny,” it is unacceptable for Japan to further neglect Taiwan based on preconceived notions.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at a press conference at the presidential office in Taipei in February 2021 (Courtesy of the presidential office, Kyodo)

 In December 2007, I personally led a bipartisan delegation to Taiwan, where we had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Wu and the much-talked-about Minister of IT, Audrey Tang Feng, whose IT-based countermeasures against the new coronavirus have attracted worldwide attention.

 Now that the threat level has been raised by the China Maritime Security Law, it is time to build a foundation for close cooperation between Japan, Taiwan, and the United States to deal with unforeseen actions by China. We must not let a future in which we, who are on the first island chain, are placed under China’s hegemony become a reality.

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